Wednesday, December 6

Labor reform: race against time for a deal on December 17

Unions, businessmen and the Government already have a new flying goal to try to reach a possible agreement in labor reform: the Executive wants to have it ready in two weeks, although the deadline seems short in the light that, at the table, all the important issues are still open. The calendar does not help either: the first week of the term, with two holidays (6 and 8) only leaves space for two meetings: Tuesday 7 (which will be telematic, so that negotiators can participate from their resting place, if it is precise) and on Friday 10, already in the usual room of the Ministry of Labor. For the following week, an intense schedule of meetings is being planned, with the aim that on Friday the 17th a pact may be announced.

To get there, it will be necessary to advance by leaps and bounds because, according to sources in the negotiation, the only – provisional – agreement that the parties have reached is on training contracts, which is by no means one of the decisive issues. By contrast, this Friday’s meeting has confirmed important differences between unions and employers on two issues of scope: the regulation of subcontractors and the prevalence rules of the agreements.

Sector or company

The matter of agreements is one of the most delicate, because the UGT and CCOO have actively and passively notified that one of their red lines is undo the prevalence of the company pact on the sector consecrated by the labor reform of the Rajoy Government; Entrepreneurs, for their part, are reluctant to return the application priority to the sector agreement, as was the case before 2012. According to these sources, although the two parties broadly agree on which aspects of working life should preferably be negotiated in the sectorial or in the business sphere, neither employers nor centrals want to give in that their preferred type of agreement appears in the norm as the prevailing one.

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Regarding the rest of the matters under discussion, there are no substantial approaches: regarding temporality, in which fundamental differences were found at the meeting last Wednesday, the parties are waiting for a new document synthesizing positions that the Government promised them days ago but has not yet delivered. Employers, who are the most belligerent with the reform proposals because it takes away their power with respect to current legislation, refuse to accept limitations on temporary hiring formulas and also refuse to increase the economic penalties in the prices of very short contracts.

ERTE and attractiveness

Regarding future erte (the RED mechanism), the last draft of the executive has not yet been addressed at the table, and something similar happens with the substantial modification of working conditions, which has yet to be reviewed. In this last area, in any case, conflict is also anticipated because again the employers reject part of the drafts that are handled at the table: they refuse that collective changes in the working conditions of small companies are sponsored by commissions of the most representative unions in the sector, and are also opposed to possible changes in the rules that allow companies get off the hook (that is, to waive it) easily when economic situations are adverse.

Another matter that is pending negotiation and that will also be controversial is the ultractivity, that is, the validity of the agreements once they have expired. The labor reform limited it to one year, unless otherwise agreed by the negotiators, and the unions want recover the indefinite validity until the expired covenant is replaced by a new one. Although many difficulties are not expected for the union position to triumph in the end, since extractiveness adds tensions in collective bargaining also for employers, it is expected that the employer will fight to try to exchange their acquiescence for some concession in another of the aspects to debate.

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